29 September 2008

Sorry! Can't wear that!

When does it start getting too much? When does it start pushing the boundaries of religion and common sense, and just moves into the territory of plain stupidity? Well, for Saudi Arabia, that line has probably been crossed so long ago, no one remembers it even existed.

We all know the Saudi system is a bit on the extreme side, but somehow just as the world starts to think that maybe, just maybe, things in the country will start to improve, they come out with new rules and laws that assures us that the country will remain in the dark ages for quite a while.

We understand the extreme side to interpreting religion; so you want to cover up your women and make sure that the smallest area of flesh doesn't show. We get that. You don't want your women to drive, so that they don't go out alone, either to be flirted with, or to have the power to go wherever they want whenever they want (obviously to flirt with guys). We get that too. We get all of your other stupid and nutty rules, not through logic or common sense, but through endless exposure to them. But one thing I don't understand, is this new rule;

Saudi religious police in abaya crackdown

Saudi Arabia's religious police are cracking down on adorned abayas in the run-up to Eid Al-Fitr and have threatened shopkeepers with fines and even prison for selling the black robes with any form of decoration.

Shopkeepers in the kingdom's capital Riyadh said they are having to turn away customers, many of whom are looking to buy more fashionable abayas with patterned, beaded or colourful trim, the UK's Financial Times reported on Saturday.

Decorative abayas are becoming increasingly popular in the Gulf as women's dress codes are relaxed. However the liberalisation, though only slight, has angered some conservatives...

Full Article

Now let's try and get some thing straight here; women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed to dress up in anything but a black robe, have to cover their hair and face, and so that's totally destroyed all chances for women to have any sort of personality. Now the only small personalization they're actually able to do, is put a few basic designs on their abaya (which aren't really very extravagant) and now even that's being taken away from them?

What do you expect them to do? Give them no other choice to do anything in their lives? There are some serious issues here with the current state of Islam, and not just Saudi Arabia; the phrase of the year (or the past few years to be exact) seems to be "ban it". If they don't like it, they ban it; whether it's a TV show, a type of clothing, or anything else.

There's something very flawed with this theory. When you ban something, without providing something else to replace it, you get a void. When you ban something else, again without a replacement, you get a bigger void, and so on and so forth until there's a ridiculously huge void in people's lives, which they start to fill with negative actions. Want proof? Just watch some of the Saudi's that cross over the causeway to greet us on weekends.

What's wrong with the religion of Islam nowadays, is the extremist nuts that sit at the top. Somehow we need to eliminate those from coming up with ridiculous rules and laws, but whose to stop them without them using their "you're going against Islam" card?

Complex problem. Anybody got a solution?

21 September 2008

Cartoon Creativity

Ramadan 2006; the typical khaleeji family gathers to eat and drink after a long day of fasting, followed by hours of being slumped at the TV to watch the regular, bland TV shows. TV shows that covered topics that have been over and done with year after year, offering nothing new.

But not this year; this was 2006, and something was different. Apparently someone thought that taking the khaleeji culture, turning it into a funny cartoon, and throwing in a few modern day topics seemed like a good idea. And a good idea it was; "Freej" instantly caught on with both children and adults, becoming an instant hit and appealing to the crowds that watched. Although essentially Emarati, all khaleeji's could somehow relate to this cartoon; the story of four old traditional women, caught up in the fast-evolving changing world that is Dubai.

All those originally from the region somehow managed to relate; the older people who had seen the Gulf countries develop from tiny villages and deserts to huge international cities, the teenagers who have brief memories of days when things were much more simple, and the children who have finally found a cartoon that has characters from their part of the world, rather than anime monsters and superhuman robots.

And yes, it was a creative concept; a cool breeze of fresh air in a region where Ramadan TV shows every year seemed to bring the same old thing. Although the viewers loved it, most TV show producers turned their heads. It was just a cartoon after all, why should they bother with such a childish concept?

Freej went on to grow with a marketing strategy to spread it's brand to dolls, toys, branded clothes, stationary and much more (and yes, they all sold like crazy). Freej was everywhere; in children's bedrooms, at your local DVD store, and the characters were even found in various festivals and events.

Now, the TV show producers started to notice; their initial impressions that this was a childish short-term thing were apparently wrong. Freej was one hell of a brand that was marketed right, and stole a niche in the Ramadan TV show market that no one even knew existed.

So what do we get for Ramadan now? A million different cartoon/animated shows.. Seems the producers figured that animated shows were actually the way to go, and so they just dropped all their effort into coming up with mind-numbing stories animated with the newest graphics and animation technologies..

Err.. No..

That's not what made Freej popular. It wasn't the fact that the animation and graphics were advanced. It was partly the stories it portrayed, the issues it addressed, the thought and passion of it's producer (who I have utmost respect for, way to go), which showed in every detail of it, from sound production, to script, to everything else.

But no, these producers figured they could just slap on some hi-tech graphics, and instantly achieve the success of Freej. Unfortunately most of them are total misses, try hard to be funny (and fail), and have stories that, although based in the region, are hardly related to anything here, and are actually a bit of a drag to watch.

The point is, this topic isn't just about Ramadan TV shows. It's about the Gulf countries in general; One GCC country achieves great success in building luxury resorts and properties, so the surrounding countries decide to copycat the concepts hoping to achieve the same success. One GCC country builds a Formula One track bringing in attention from the whole world, and all of a sudden 2 others want to build their own F1 tracks too. Tallest tower in the world? Nope, a few other countries decide they'll build their own tallest tower.

But it's all for the best right? We're all growing right?

Wrong. We're all biting at each other, and minimizing the chances for each others' success, rather than working together to help complement each other with different services and products.

And unfortunately, this trend of copycatting everything seems to continue. What we need is more original ideas. Why don't we see investment in technology? Science? Energy? Entertainment?

Creativity guys. Bring it on, that's what we need.

17 September 2008

Cats > Dogs (Introducing Stealth Ninja Cat)

Although it's been said that a dog is a man's best friend, you really can't mess with the cool, calm collective mentality of a cat. Sure, your dog will run up and greet you as soon as you walk through the door, but your cat, on the other hand, will just sit there and give you an ice-cold stare that says "I own this place".

Yup. Attitude and character; cat's have a lot of it. The cat in this video in particular, has more character than most. It's been fully trained in stealth martial arts, and can go ninja on you without you even realizing; take a look - the cat comes closer and closer without moving.

Or without you even REALIZING it's moving.

And before you know it, it's all over you and BOOM!

Total respect. If any of you dog lovers out there want to prove dogs are cooler, well, sure, just send me a video that beats this one.

16 September 2008

Got Black Magic Problems?

Google built their empire on contextual advertising; ie, anyone can have an advert up in Gmail, Google searches, etc, based upon similar content you search for or read about.

But sometimes you get... Well... Just take a look for yourselves (click for large size):


Umm... Ok, let's read it again...

Nullify Black Magic

Okay, an interesting title, wonder what this ad is all about?

Expert Indian Vedic Rituals

Ah great, just the sort of service I was looking for and couldn't find in my local yellow pages...

Remove all sort of Evil Effect

Yeah, sure sure... Can you prove it?

500% True

500%! That means it's not just one hundred percent true, not two hundred percent true, no, not even three hundred percent. Nope, you've got a FULL FIVE HUNDRED PERCENT. Holy crap, now you've definitely got me convinced that this thing is legit! Where do I sign up ?

14 September 2008

Trench Warfare

Those pigeons won't even see it coming...

Click for large size

9 September 2008

City Center Opening (T - 1)

So the big City Center is scheduled for it's 'soft launch' tomorrow! Finally, after months of construction, Bahrain's biggest mall is ready to welcome customers. Given though, it's not 100% complete; some of the shops won't be ready till the official launch in (hopefully) December, and the indoor waterpark + 2 hotels will finish sometime in 2009.

(click for large size)

Anyway, with a bit of free time on my hands, I decided to see if I can sneak a peek inside the closely guarded secret that is City Center. The place feels like some sort of special army base, since all the entrances are closed and heavily secured. The only possible entrance is the one through which all the employees/construction workers go, so I decided to head there:

The place feels like it's own community; it's got it's own roads, people walking around, huge parking lots. Huge place. Anyway; that proved unfruitful since, to actually get into the mall, you needed to go through a bunch of offices, all of which had employees not happy with my reason for coming (Uhhh, can I just like, look around?).

So that was that, and I decided it wasn't worth getting physical and beating them down to get an inside look. Got in my car and started to drive off, until I realized there was one side of the mall I assume no one had thought of securing off...

Yes! The desert side!

And so I drove all the way through the wilderness till I reached it, and somehow I was faced with a large lake that I had to cross:

With a touch of a button, my car magically turned into a boat, and I crossed the lake to the other side... (ok, not really, I just found a bit of land that I could drive across).

Lots of constructing going on to finish things for the soft-launch, as well as a bunch of deliveries arriving just in time. I tried to grab a few of the boxes and run, but I was given evil looks by the security guards...

The whole place seemed closed off, and I figured I would never get a chance to see the inside, until I spotted a small, open unguarded door on my way back to my car:

Finally, my chance! I ran through with my camera in hand, only to be faced by a number of ugly, mean-looking security guards! Took a quick shot before they dragged me out...

So there you have it! Exeeeeecccclllluuuhuuusive from ammaro.com, your first look inside City Center Mall! Launch is tomorrow, see ya there!

Running Out of News

We all know the Gulf Daily News; my most favouritest bestest newspaper in the World, who love to turn the most un-newsworthy acts into huge issues:

Baby camel still missing after crash
MYSTERY surrounds the whereabouts of a baby camel, which fled after being involved in a road accident in which two people were injured. The accident happened near the Al Jazira Supermarket, Budaiya, when the camel reportedly fell off a pick-up truck, into the path of an oncoming car, on Saturday.
Oooooohhh... Mystery... How I love a good mystery...

It is understood the camel shattered the car windscreen, slightly injuring its Indian driver and a passenger. The camel was last seen running into bushes near Bushehri Gardens, but there has been no trace of it since.
It is understood? What the...? It's pretty obvious to tell if a windscreen has been shattered or not, what do you mean "it is understood"?! Did it take a bunch of intelligence agents researching hidden clues to figure that one out?

Traffic police called an ambulance and the injured car occupants were treated on the spot, but not taken to hospital.
If they were treated on the spot, I think that pretty much means they weren't taken to a hospital, no?

"We made sure the two men were treated but we are not aware of what happened to the camel," said a traffic official.
Of course you're not aware! It's because "Mystery" surrounds this whole case!

A witness, who was at a nearby cold store, said the camel fell off a pick-up but the vehicle did not stop.
No no no no NO! The guy was not a WITNESS. The word witness insinuates that there was some sort of crime, or some sort of exceptional occurrence. Seeing a camel falling off a vehicle that did not stop doesn't make you a "witness". It makes you a guy who saw a camel falling off a vehicle that did not stop.

Gulf Daily News; Adding Spice to your Every Day Life

7 September 2008

Google = 10

It's the 7th of September, and the big G is now 10 years old. Hard to believe that back in 1998, the internet king didn't even exist, and finding stuff online wasn't really that simple. Sure, Yahoo was around, plus a number of other weirdly named search engines (Lycos, Altavista) that have since died out, but none have really done what this behemoth has managed to do.

Google's business-model managed to quickly grow the company from an above-average search engine, into a global corporation with a market-cap of $142 billion, generating over $16 billion in annual revenues. They've managed to buy numerous innovative start-ups (everything from YouTube, to Picasa, to the core engine of their Google Earth service), created their own widespread services like Gmail & Orkut, and are pushing the barrier with cloud-computing, their new internet browser (Chrome) and the soon to be released Google cellphone. Yup, they sure do seem to have everything.

Now for Google's humble beginning: two university students started up Google in a friend's garage, and in a few short months, boom! The idea was actually envisioned back in 1996 though, which is a little annoying because that was when I created my first website. Sadly enough, theirs has managed to make them billionaires, mine has not. (If you really want to take a look at my website, which I don't advise, you can check it out here. Good for a laugh).

Anyway, we have Google to thank for quite a bit of the innovation/streamlining of the internet, because honestly, back then it was a bit of a crappy place. Take a look at Google's original page, for example:

Yeah... That's pretty crappy looking alright, but that's actually pretty simple and innovative in comparison to whatever else was out there on the internet. Let's take a look at a global corporation like McDonalds, for example. They must have had something that looked good back then, no?

Err... No... And dammit, my eyes hurt!!! But if you think that's bad, you need to actually browse their site; check out the funny animated dude and the cheesy comments, the crappy drawings, and the supposedly different adult/kid links that both lead to the same place (click on the Mcdonalds page to go there).

It didn't stop there, here are just a few other websites that looked amazing back in the pre-Google days:

MSN (Yup, Microsoft!)

Lego, lovely.

Either way, let's just be glad that the internet isn't what it used to be back then, and thank you Google for being part of what makes it what it is today.

Congratulations to Google on your 10th.

(Written on Blogger, a Google service. Bloody hell, they do own everything, don't they!?)

6 September 2008

Injured Ant

From todays' Gulf Daily News (Letters Section)

Poor thing..!

In response to E Sankar (GDN, August 28) regarding her poor sick pigeon, I would like to inform her that I too am in need of urgent help.

I stepped on an ant this morning and I think I broke its right toe. I gave it a drop of water but I think it needs urgent medical attention. Can someone please help? It is at present under my left yellow Adidas running shoes.

I sincerely think the above issue is of great importance; hence I am taking my time in sending this letter to the GDN.


Lovely. Nice to see people still have a sense of humor during the holy month.

On a totally different note, the new issue of HalaBahrain Magazine is out, covering things to do, places to go, events, entertainment and much more! Check it out, like, right now:

3 September 2008

More Fun @ the Olympics

And I thought Takeshita was a bad name...

This guy's got it worse. No matter how well he's doing, whenever the crowds start chanting his name, he can't help but be reminded.....